There’s a new nutritional powerhouse on the block: chia seeds. The tiny seeds are being hailed as a superfood with endless nutritional benefits.
What are Chia Seeds?
Chia seeds are harvested form the Salvia hispanica plant and are sometimes referred to as salba or salvia. Chia seeds are not new—in fact, they were a staple of the ancient Aztec and Mayan diets. The tiny seeds are easy to store and transport and were therefore valued as a nutritionally dense, high-energy food. The ancient warriors believed that one or two tablespoons of the seeds were enough to sustain an individual for 24 hours. They valued the seeds on long marches.
Today the seeds are experiencing a resurgence in popularity due to their incredible nutritional value.
Nutritional Qualities of Chia Seeds
Chia seeds may be tiny, but they carry large nutritional benefits. Chia seeds contain more omega-3 fatty acids than any other plant source, including flaxseeds—in fact, 3.5 ounces of the seeds contain as much omega-3 as 28 ounces of salmon. Furthermore, the seeds have a balanced ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
Chia seeds are high in:
- Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids
- Vitamin C
One ounce of chia seeds contains 137 calories, four grams of protein, and 11 grams of fiber.
Benefits of Eating Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are nutritious and easily digestible. The seeds are hydrophilic, meaning they absorb large amounts of water—about ten times their weight in water. As a result, chia seeds can help you stay hydrated longer and retain electrolytes.
There is some evidence indicating that chia seeds can reduce cravings and stabilize blood sugar. The seeds have been shown to be beneficial to diabetics because their high fiber content slows the absorption of sugar and starches, thereby stabilizing blood sugar levels. A study of diabetics who ate up to four teaspoons of chia seeds every day for three months showed reduced blood clotting, reduced inflammation, and reduced blood pressure.1
Many people tout chia seeds as an energy enhancing food that can help speed weight loss—because the fibrous seeds are filling and help reduce cravings.
Preparing Chia Seeds
Unlike flaxseeds, chia seeds do not need to be ground in order to optimize nutritional benefits. The seeds are versatile and can be sprinkled on cereal, yogurt, and salads or even incorporated into smoothies.
One of the simplest ways to incorporate chia into your diet is to make chia gel. Mix 1/3 cup of chia seeds with two cups of water and whisk it. Let it stand for a few minutes and whisk it again to prevent clumps. Within 10-15 minutes, the seeds will form a gel, which can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Consume the gel on its own, mix it with cereal or granola, or use it to substitute fats/oils in recipes. Some people like to take a small scoop of the gel and mix it with water and lime for a refreshing and nutritious drink.
Chia seeds have a mild flavor and tend to absorb the flavors of whatever they are mixed with. Stir a dash of maple syrup and cinnamon into the gel, add a scoop of granola and a scoop of blueberries and you’ll have a delicious, energizing, healthy breakfast. Enjoy!
1 Vuksan V, Whitham D, Sievenpiper JL, et al. Supplementation of conventional therapy with the novel grain salba (salvia hispanica L.) improves major and emerging cardiovascular risk factors in type 2 diabetes: Results of a randomized controlled trial. Diabetes Care. 2007; 30: 2804-2810.